What’s better — an SEO strategy or a content strategy?
If you’re short on time and you want the best for your content marketing it’s worth looking at whether an SEO strategy or a content strategy is best for your business.
Both a content strategy and an SEO strategy can overlap. It can at times seem like the same thing. Yet, both might not be relevant for your business or your overall marketing goals.
In this blog, I’m going to take you through the similarities and differences between an SEO strategy and content strategy and when you might want to use one over another — or use both.
What is an SEO strategy?
An SEO strategy is what actions you plan to take to increase your visibility when someone searches online for products or services like yours. It could be that you want to get lots of guest posts published to build your backlinks. Or you may have an eCommerce shop and therefore want to focus on your shopping rankings.
Perhaps your customers live locally and then you will want to put your energy into increasing your local SEO. Or it could be a combination of all these things.
A good strategy starts with what you want to achieve. It’s lovely to rank on the first page of Google but only if the people who want to buy your products are searching for those keywords.
Let’s say you sell candles. You have high competition for candles when it comes to search. However, if you focus your strategy on more specific keywords, to local search and Google shopping then you might get more traction. This traction, in turn, can help you rank better for some of the more competitive terms.
When I surveyed brands, I found that very few of them had an SEO strategy. This is backed up by much larger surveys in America where 70% of businesses have no SEO strategy in place. So if you are reading this and you have no strategy in place, you are not alone.
What is a content strategy?
Content strategy looks at how you use the full suite of your online content to deliver your goals. Again, let’s say you are the candle maker and you’ve got some budget for ad-spend. Well, now you might want to put some of your time and effort into creating brilliant social media adverts that will bring people to your website.
When they get to your website, you will want to give them some content to keep them there. And maybe offer something else so they dig a little deeper.
If you’ve sorted out the foundations of a strong brand and tone of voice, the people who see your advert will feel connected to your business and want to know more. Your content strategy should be nurturing them to the point of sale and beyond so they become a part of your brand community.
Again, in my survey of brands, I found that very few had a standalone content strategy. Around half include the content strategy as part of their marketing strategy — the rest are winging it. Yet when 60% of customers read about a brand before buying a product and content marketing generates three times as many leads than traditional marketing routes, it seems a bit bonkers that you should ‘wing-it’ for such an important part of your business.
Where SEO strategy goes beyond content
So, does an SEO strategy go beyond content? There are parts of SEO that are nothing to do with content. Your website speed and how it is set up has an impact on how well you show up on a search engine.
“The best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google Search”
As does the accessibility of your website. Some of this falls into Content Design, user experience (UX) and the technical set-up. You may also want to increase your links from other websites over to your website (known as backlinks), which can be done through collaborations, guest posting or appearing on podcasts and videos.
You could argue that audio-visual content on other websites still comes under a content strategy but it is possible to build a good SEO strategy by putting little content on your own website.
Equally, your brand name and the URLs you use have an impact on your search visibility. Alongside the structure of your website. None of this involves writing copy or embedding media on your site. But it all still makes a difference.
In fact, one of the overlooked pieces of SEO is Google reviews. This is content created by your customers for your own search visibility. Nurturing customers so they willingly leave you a review is a great way to create content without creating it yourself.
When content strategy goes beyond SEO
Not all web pages and blogs need to be SEO blogs. In fact, I’d argue that some of your blogs should not be written for search engines but to educate and nurture people who are already familiar with your brand.
This allows you to flex your creative muscles beyond what the data tells you will be popular. You might create content for a specific period of time and delete it when it becomes irrelevant.
And certainly, your sales pages should not be found on search engines. You want someone to be warm to what you’re selling before they hit the hard sell, especially if you are a service-based business.
Then there are what I call ‘hidden pieces of content’. These are your thank you pages, your email marketing, the pages that redirect and are only seen by a certain group of people. They get something special that no one else does. You can go to town with these pieces of content and know they are for your biggest fans.
Only using SEO
Now, you cannot do on-page SEO (that means on your website) without looking at your copy. But SEO on your website is not the only way to do SEO. So it may well be that you don’t need to create as much copy as you think.
If you are creating an SEO strategy, as well as looking at the goals, it’s important to look at what you have time to do. Do you have resources to build up a good library of blogs or podcasts? Or someone who can do this for you?
If not, then you might want to look at building relationships with people to build up your off-site SEO.
It is also possible to only create blogs for SEO and not worry about the wider content marketing strategy. You may well find you get some traction from this. But you are unlikely to be making the most of your SEO hard work without the content strategy to support it.
Only using content
It is possible to create a wonderful content marketing campaign without applying any SEO tactics. In fact, you can have a content marketing strategy that does not need you to create lots of new blogs on your website.
If you have a strong social media presence — and you need it to be super solid — then you don’t necessarily need people to find your website through search. Although this comes with a big scary warning — those social media channels can change the rules on you at any time. And if you’re business is relying on these channels for ALL of your sales, then you’re creating a huge amount of unnecessary risk.
There are many businesses that create a content marketing strategy that bypasses SEO and takes clients from social media to their newsletter. They create a rock-solid newsletter strategy that does all the hard work. There are many more options available that you can use. That’s why it’s a strategy and not chucking everything at it.
You’re only doing the actions that take you towards your goal and work to attract your dream customers.
If you are using both, you will probably want to do a content or SEO audit to see where you are right now and what actions you need to take for the best results. Your SEO strategy will form a part of your wider content strategy.
And depending on your business, your content strategy will fit into a much bigger marketing strategy. It’s a bit like a matryoshka doll — you get down to the nitty-gritty strategy for each element of your marketing plan and as a result, you’re crystal clear on what you need to do to make it happen.
How to work out what you need
The first step in selecting your SEO strategy and your content strategy is to work out what you actually need. You can only do this if you’re clear on your goal. And you might want to work through all the different possibilities of how you’ll get there.
Only then can you see what best fits your skillset and the time you have. If you have a larger team then it’s working out what fits their skills or if you need to bring in someone new to fill the gap.
Jumping into SEO or content marketing because you think you need it — or worse some generic advice online has told you that you need it — could be a massive waste of your time and energy.
Set out what you want first and then work out which will do the job best — SEO strategy, content strategy or both.